Have you tried quinoa?

Quinoa is a versatile seed that can be used in many dishes. It’s tasty and packed with nutrients.

Following the advice of Michigan State University Extension, I’ve decided to make some healthy changes in the way I eat. One of these changes has been to add more whole grains to my diet. I’ve been having fun trying new grains that I haven’t had before. There are several grains I’ve found that are tasty, filling and packed with nutrients. One of my favorites is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). Quinoa is a protein rich seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture once it’s cooked. The flavor is somewhat nutty. As I did a little reading about quinoa I learned that it is not a grain, but actually a relative of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard.

Quinoa contains 4.1 grams of protein and 2.6 grams of fiber per one-half cup serving. The same serving of white long-grain rice contains 2.1 grams of protein and .3 grams of fiber. Quinoa is also a good source of iron and magnesium. It can be used in place of rice in many recipes, or by itself as a side dish. Quinoa can also be used in place of potatoes in a gratin and can even be eaten in place of oatmeal at breakfast.

Here is a recipe featuring quinoa that my family enjoys.

Vegetable Soup with Quinoa

Serves 4 – 1 3/4 cups each

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup water

Cooking spray

1 cup diced onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup chopped carrot

1 cup diced yellow squash

1 cup (1/4 inch) cut green beans

3/4 cup chopped celery

2 (16 ounce) cans fat free reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 (14.5 ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained, or two cups chopped fresh tomato

3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

1 cup thinly sliced spinach leaves

1.5 teaspoon hot sauce

  1. Place quinoa in a fine sieve; rinse under cold water. Combine quinoa and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork; set aside.
  2. Coat a large pot with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and garlic. Sauté for three minutes. Add zucchini and the next nine ingredients (through bay leaf). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Discard the bay leaf.
  3. At this point you may place three cups of the soup in a blender and process until smooth. Alternatively, you can use a handheld immersion blender to puree three cups of the soup. Return the pureed soup to the pot; stir in the quinoa, spinach and hot sauce. Cook over medium heat until the soup is thoroughly heated.

You may skip the puree step and simply, after step two, stir in the quinoa, spinach and hot sauce. Cook the soup over medium heat until it is thoroughly heated.

Nutrition facts per serving:

Calories: 149

Fat: 2.2 grams

Cholesterol: 0

Sodium: 321 milligrams

Carbohydrate: 27.6 grams

Fiber: 5.2 grams

Sugars: 6.9 grams

Protein: 6.7 grams

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